From Medium/Vic Welle: “A lot of people might be surprised to hear that I am not recommending 988, the newly implemented ‘mental health 911’ number, as a resource for people who are experiencing emotional distress or thoughts of suicide. After all, I’ve spent the past several years as a peer support worker, using my own lived experience of healing from trauma as a way to connect with and support people coping with emotional distress. I regularly talk with people who are contemplating suicide, recovering from traumatic events, and working through emotional crisis. Why would I not be excited to promote a new resource for people to access mental health support?
For those unfamiliar, 988 is replacing the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and is also meant to divert crisis calls away from 911 so that, in theory, a person in emotional crisis can receive the support they need by trained mental health workers. This is, in theory, a good and noble idea. And, as currently managed and implemented, 988 is not a resource I can endorse. How do I know? I spent many hours over the past couple of years attending 988 task force meetings, reading, and learning what I could about the implementation plans. What I’ve learned has left me feeling very worried about the potential for emotional and physical harm to the most vulnerable and historically marginalized. This includes Black, Indigenous, and people of color, the LGBTQIA+ community, people healing from traumatizing police interactions, and people at risk of forced psychiatric interventions.
Simply put, 988 is not trauma-informed. A 2014 document published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), ‘SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach,’ details trauma-informed program implementation, and notes that ‘A program, organization, or system that is trauma-informed… responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices, and seeks to actively resist re-traumatization.’
The current rollout of 988 is carrying over the same harmful protocols and practices of the Lifeline it is replacing, and is not taking the needed steps to actively resist traumatization and re-traumatization. Below are the principles of a trauma-informed approach as outlined in the SAMHSA document, and the ways in which 988 is not yet able to measure up.”
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